We had 10 km to go to the finish in Gippingen. After the breakaway our Trek-Segafredo team had been pursuing for the whole day had been reeled in, another small group moved on the attack on the uphill. I bridged over to them, and moved to the front: there were eight riders there, but cooperation was no perfect. After all, I was arguably the fastest man in the group. Behind us, the peloton was coming back under the Bora’s push, so I decided to sit up along with three more breakaway riders. And in that moment, the remainder of the breakaway dug deep again. I saw the movie of the Cassano d’Adda finish happening again, and this time I was not going to settle with the chasing group’s sprint. I followed another rider on the counter attack, and moved back in the lead. And, at that time, the breakaway action stopped working for good.
How did it end up? The peloton got back on the breakaway, and I won the sprint with raised arms on the 4/5% final ramp. I was very confident before the race, because I had not given up after the Giro. I had taken some easier days, but no vacations. Physically and mentally. And after sacrificing all of my teammates to keep hold on a very fast and weary race, I was called to show why we had bossed through the day. I was feeling strong, I proved to be the strongest on the day. It was my way to say thank you.
It was my first race after the Giro, after Torino. And the last before the Italian Championships in Boario Terme. I don’t think of myself as a first-row favorite, but I don’t feel too much behind either. I wasn’t to bring there the same approach of Gippingen: racing with the big goal in mind.
The point now is keeping this level of condition through two more weeks. The Champs are a month after the Giro finish, and that’s quite a lot. I spoke about it with Trek-Segafredo’s trainer Josu Larrazabal, and we think we can make it. It’s the first time in the last few years that the route leaves opportunities for quite a number of riders, after four very hard editions, and I want to make the best of it.
Only after that, I will leave the bike in the garage for some days, and get back to races in late July. Regardless what will happen at the Italian Championship, it was an intense and demanding first part of the season, but one I feel proud of. In my bag, I have three victories, the Giro’s Maglia Rossa, and several people say I should count one more victory to my name… whatever. There are also twenty top-10 placements. But these are only numbers, albeit good ones. What really makes me happy is to see I managed to be always at the sharp end through five months, even on finishes where I would have had no business until a few years ago. Could I have won some more races? Probably, yes.
But there’s another half-season to do that. There are plenty of races I like still in front of us, and the World Championships in Qatar, too… we’ll see what we can do.